How to Handle Being Late to Work

When you accept a job, you make an agreement of performance. One of those agreements regards starting time. Being lax about that particular agreement generally won’t sit well with your employer and can have dire consequences for you. Accepting responsibility for it may not only prove to your employer that you are responsible, but it could save your job. Ladan Nikravan Hayes lays it out for you in the following post.


You likely think your boss understands that life happens and that there are going to be days that you arrive late to work. After all, cars break down, alarms fail to go off and traffic slows. But according to a new CareerBuilder survey, the majority of employers (60%) say they expect employees to be on time every day, and more than 2 in 5 (43%) have fired someone for being late.

What’s the reason?

In general, the usual suspects are to blame for why employees are late to work: traffic (51%), oversleeping (31%), bad weather (28%), too tired to get out of bed (23%) and forgetting something (13%). But sometimes the excuses can be much wackier. When asked about the most outrageous excuses employees have given them for being late, employers shared the following:

  • It’s too cold to work.

  • I had morning sickness (it was a man).

  • My coffee was too hot and I couldn’t leave until it cooled off.

  • An astrologer warned me of a car accident on a major highway, so I took all back roads, making me an hour late.

  • My dog ate my work schedule.

  • I was here, but I fell asleep in the parking lot.

  • My fake eyelashes were stuck together.

  • Although it has been five years, I forgot I did not work at my former employer’s location and drove there by accident.

So, what do you do if you’re running behind?

If you think you’ll be late: If you know you’re going to be late, the best thing to do is to call the appropriate parties to let them know. Then enlist someone to cover you, if necessary, and possible.

Once you get to work, a sincere apology in person establishes your regret that the situation occurred and that you understand the negative effect your late arrival has on your team and potentially the company’s bottom line.

Once you arrive: Being late is a part of life, and it’s always polite to apologize when it happens. Everybody’s human and makes mistakes, so own up to yours and move on.

If you were exceptionally late, you may need to move on to an apology letter or email. Another reason you may want to choose this option is if your lateness caused a big problem for the company, such as losing a client.

Overall, whether or not you need to address it comes down to company culture. If everyone is diligently working when you come in late every morning, then you probably stand out. If the occasional late arrival is OK according to your culture and policy, you likely won’t be disciplined.

(Source: Ladan Nikravan Hayes, CareerBuilder)

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